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Bright Light Therapy

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Importance of Light:

Light is essential to maintaining normal, healthy physiology. Exposure to the sunrise is a key factor in synchronizing our internal body cycles or circadian rhythms to the external world (so we sleep when it is dark and are alert during the day).

Modern industrial society, combined with human migration to northern latitudes, has tampered with this cycle and the resulting loss of natural light exposure - in dark apartments, in the workplace, on shift work, etc. For many, this leads to ongoing light deprivation, making us vulnerable to mood disorders, sleep problems, fatigue, poor ability to concentrate, and more.

Light levels vary greatly between indoor and outdoor lighting as shown in the chart below. LUX is the measure of light intensity at a specific distance from a light source.

Indoor Lighting
Indoors at home 200-500 lux
Indoors at office 400-700 lux
Springtime Lighting on a Clear Day
5:55 Sunrise 750 lux
6:10 a.m. 2,500 lux
6:20 a.m. 5,000 lux
6:40 a.m. 10,000 lux
12:00 Noon 81,000 lux
5:10 p.m. 10,000 lux
5:30 p.m. 5,000 lux
5:40 p.m. 2,500 lux
5:55 Sunset 750 lux

Many people may suffer from light deprivation and not even be aware that the symptoms of light deprivation include:

  1. Feeling down or moody during the fall and winter
  2. Fatigue, lack of energy, and difficulty getting up in the morning
  3. Problems getting things done (lack of motivation)
  4. Reduced social contact (and often reduced sexual interest)
  5. Cravings for carbohydrates and weight gain

Experts believe that as many as 1 in 20 people may experience full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder in the northern hemisphere and up to 11 times may experience the milder winter blues. As well, recent findings show that bright light therapy may also help relieve some non-seasonal mood disorders, jet lag and shift work adjustment.

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